Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Here's the deal: Life is really all about love. I'm not just saying that because I'm a father of a newborn baby; I'm saying that because as a teacher and as a therapist I've seen people basically choose between two things: love or something else. What I've witnessed and experienced is this: When people choose love, they always choose right. I was asked to speak today on the topic of illumination, and it made me think about the way the light inside us all can shine. My favorite way is through our love which can illuminate in our relationships. The most important relationship that we'll ever have, is the relationship that we have with ourselves. And next comes the relationships that we share with one another. As simply as I can put it, we are here, on this very Earth, to love and to be loved - and love is light. In a second, what I'd like to do with you today, is a brief, relaxing, guided-imagery exercise, where I'm going to have you close your eyes and consider three expressions of light that can return us to love. I'm going to have you close your eyes and consider three items, and then associate each item with a person in your life. So, let's get ready. Can I ask you to put your feet flat on the floor, palms facing up in your lap, and when you're ready, gently allow your upper eyelids to meet your lower eyelashes. Close your eyes and let's everyone take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. The first item I'd like you to picture is the sun. Picture the sun in the big, blue sky, feel the warmth of her rays, and consider how the sun continues to show up every day, sharing its light and energy unconditionally, even on a cold February morning. Is there somebody in your life that reminds you of the sun? Somebody that loves you unconditionally? Picture that person now and feel their love. The next item I'd like you to picture is a lighthouse. See the light emanating from the top of the structure at the ocean's edge where the sea meets the land, and remember its primary purpose: To help guide sailors and boaters home. Is there somebody in your life that helps guide you home? To your authentic self? To the truth of who you are? To the person that you're meant to be? To the path that you're meant to be on? Picture that person now and consider the direction that they're encouraging you to head in. The last item I'd like you to picture is a disco ball. See the light bouncing off of it, think of the energy in the room where you might find this unique object, maybe you hear your favorite song playing. Is there somebody in your life that reminds you of a disco ball? Somebody that shows up with the fun, loving energy wherever they are, wherever they go? Picture that person now and consider how they are encouraging you to live and love. Gently float open your eyes. Today I'd like to share a story with you about a student of mine. His name was Daniel. I met Daniel the very first year I was a classroom teacher. I had no experience as a theology teacher in an all-boys prep school, and somehow this little guy, this 103-pound wrestler, he became more of a teacher to me than a student, because he showed me and everybody in the school building how to shine their love and their light by being an example of how it's done. You see, the same year that I met this little guy was the same year that I was cut from the NFL. Felt like a little bit of my light had been taken from me when the Baltimore Ravens told me I can no longer be their quarterback. I had trained with them all summer, I felt like a kid in Disney, I was playing and competing with some of my childhood heroes in stadiums that I had only visited as a fan. Playing in the NFL was an incredible experience, but at the end of the summer, a week before our first game, on the last day of cuts, I was released. I had to return home to New Jersey to figure out a new career. I had graduated from Georgetown University with the degree in psychology, so I guessed I could teach that, but I was hired at an all-boys prep school to coach football and teach theology. It was kind of like a life course for the incoming freshmen. Gave me the opportunity to teach the guys the importance of being kind, caring and thoughtful. It really healed my broken heart. I loved teaching as much as I loved playing football. And that's where I met Daniel. He came into my classroom like a little disco ball. He had an energy and a light about him that everybody wanted to be around. Daniel connected with everybody in the school. I used to love watching him walk the hallways. His smile was reflected back to him in every corner. Athletes, band guys, cool guys, smart guys, teachers and coaches, all felt the love of this pint-sized, 103-pound wrestler. People loved Daniel because he was free. He was free to be himself, and most of us know how difficult that can be. I remember when Daniel found out it was my birthday during his freshman year. He took it upon himself to create a homemade birthday card for me. He even taped a Starburst candy and a pack of Wrigley's gum to the inside. He presented it to me in front of the class. Daniel was redefining cool, and he made it cool to be thoughtful, caring and kind, and his classmates loved him for it. It was in this way that our brotherly bond began. And it was during his sophomore year that Daniel started to campaign for me to date his older cousin Lia, so that we could officially be family. (Laughter) He even brought her to a wrestling match one weekend. I was only there with about one other person, and Daniel had about 15 relatives cheering him on that night. It was a beautiful night. Then Daniel came into school the following Monday, and he was mad. He said, "Mr. Ward, you brought your girlfriend to my wrestling match, when I brought my cousin to introduce you?" (Laughter) I said, "Wow, Daniel, hold on a second! That girl happens to be my younger sister, (Laughter) and, second of all, I didn't know you were trying to play matchmaker that night." It felt like a real compliment to my teachings. My message of love and be loved was really making an impact. For years, I've been practicing shouting commands for the NFL football field, but I had been practicing another message all along. I was never the type of football player that was overly aggressive or tough. I never yelled at my teammates, and I never yell at my students in the classroom. Some people say this may make people walk all over you, but I believe otherwise. An older teacher once told me, when I first began teaching, that I shouldn't smile in the classroom until after a few months have gone by. (Laughter) I guess the theory is that the students would think I was tough, but I love to smile, and I have a different theory. I believe that the toughest guy in the room is not the football guy; it's the loving guy. It's the most manly thing that can ever be accomplished. It's not that difficult to do, but it requires great thought and courage. I loved football because I thought it was one of the finest team sports. When we're on the field, playing together, relating as teammates, defending each other, protecting each other, doing a little dance in the end zone to celebrate the points we score - Football was really about relationships. And so is love. Love is a team sport. A team that we are all a part of. And on this team, Daniel is an all-star. But Daniel never had the glory of an end zone dance, or even a dance at his junior prom. And that's because his life extinguished way too early. One night, during Daniel's junior year, in February, he was rolling up the mats with his wrestling buddies, and he collapsed in pain. Daniel suffered an aortic aneurysm, and he died early the next morning in hospital. It was tragic. The date was February 7th, 2002. Exactly 12 years ago today. I don't think it's any coincidence that I'm here today with the opportunity to share Daniel's story with you. Daniel is my lighthouse. When the water is dark and dangerous, the lighthouse can provide a warm and inviting light, almost as if to say, this way home. Daniel brought me home literally by bringing me to his home. The night after he died, I visited his family, along with the number of other teachers from our school. We were all greeted by Daniel's cousin Lia, who thanked us for being there during such a devastating time. I introduced myself as Daniel's theology teacher, and she replied, "Oh, you're the one that Daniel wanted me to marry!" (Laughter) It was kind of like a light went on. I ended up sitting with Lia and her mom, sharing stories of Daniel and looking at pictures. It was a really difficult time for us both, but it hard for me not to notice that Lia had the same passion and energy for life that I saw in Daniel. I wish he could have seen us meet. Riding home that night, I quietly recalled my last moment with Daniel. He was visiting my class. And like many times before, Daniel would just stroll right in. And because I was sitting behind the desk, he came over to me, and we're about the same height, and our shoulders bumped into each other as we talked. I introduced him to the class as the 103-pound wrestler who was having a great season, and the younger guys just looked at him in awe. Here was this guy, smaller than most of them, but he carried so much weight and loving energy. On his way out of the classroom that morning, Daniel turned over his shoulder in his cool little way and said, "See you around, Mr. Ward." Daniel died early the next morning. Couple of weeks later, I thought I saw Daniel at school. The student was sitting with [his] back to me, and it looked like Daniel. And for a moment I believed that it was him. But soon the student stood, and it obviously wasn't Daniel. But to me the message was clear. The same love and light that I witnessed and experienced in Daniel, could be found in everyone and everything. So I began to look for Daniel, to look for love in everyone and everything, and at the crucial point in my life, even in myself. Daniel was right when he said, "See you around." Because the same love in him is within us all. Just as I tell my students back at school, there is so much goodness in you, and you are all, each and everyone of you, worthy of love and belonging, just as you are, imperfectly perfect. And once you begin open yourself to love, you will learn to see it everywhere, creating a peace, a freedom and a truth that will shift your overall, entire experience. Think about it. If I stand right here and I shift just a little bit, my view changes entirely. The same is true for love. If we can begin to make an effort to love and be loved without any conditions, we will bring a whole new level of meaning to our relationships and to our experience. I'm going to ask you to close your eyes one more time. Picture the sun. Author Anthony de Mello writes: "Has the Sun ever said to the Earth: you owe me. Look what happens to a love like that. It lights up the whole sky." Is there somebody in your life that can use a little unconditional love? Picture that person now. Remember the lighthouse.